Why Mitt Romney Lost the South Carolina Primary

I live in South Carolina.  For the past week, I have been inundated with robocalls and campaign material from all the GOP hopefuls.  I watched and read about the debates, and I listened to what people had to say about the candidates.  This is my take on why Mitt Romney failed to energize a sufficient number of voters in my state to win the primary:

1. His lackluster defense of venture capitalists: Romney's success at Bain Capital should have given him a huge strategic advantage in South Carolina, but he played it like an amateur.  Rather than take the offense, he played defense and it cost him dearly.  Venture capitalists play an important part in the process of growing healthy small businesses and in rehabilitating faltering businesses, large or small.  Rather than explaining clearly what venture capitalists actually do and the fact that our nation needs someone with venture capitalist training at the helm right now, Romney allowed his opponents to beat him up with his most significant strength.

2. Offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands: I never heard anyone question the legality of Romney's offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands, but he never gave a complete explanation about why he decided to park money there.  The Cayman Islands are a notorious hiding place for tax cheats and money launderers.  Romney needed to distinguish between himself and others who use Cayman Island accounts for illegal purposes.  That was a serious mistake.  Romney should have anticipated the problem and moved his money back to onshore accounts long ago.

3. Tax records: Romney's handling of the tax records issue was pathetic, and it shouldn't have been.  He defended his reluctance to release his tax records by saying that Democrats would try to use his success against him.  He was right, and knowing that he should have been prepared to defend his success.  He wasn't.  He looked as though he had something to hide or that he was ashamed of his success.  He should have released his tax records and told the electorate that his goal is to reshape America so that every citizen has an opportunity to be just as successful as he has been.  In effect, Romney turned something that could have been used as an offensive weapon into a liability.  That won't work in a GOP primary, and it won't work in a general election either.

4.Rope-a-dope Style of Campaigning: Last but not least, Romney seems to be playing rope-a-dope, à la Muhammad Ali.  He entered South Carolina in the catbird seat, and he leaned against the ropes while his challengers, particularly Newt Gingrich, pummeled him.  Rope-a-dope may have been a winning strategy for Ali, and it may eventually work for Romney, too, but it opened the door for a dramatic Gingrich win in a state that could easily have gone for Romney.  If playing defense doesn't cost Romney the GOP nomination, it will almost certainly cost him the general election.

What lessons can Romney take from his dreadful second place finish in the South Carolina primary?

1. Romney's not a shoo-in for the GOP nomination, not yet anyway, so he had better play the game to win.  That means he needs more offense and less defense.

2. Romney had better come up with a reasonable explanation for those Cayman Island accounts.  If they bothered voters in South Carolina, you can bet that they will bother voters in other states, too.

3. Romney needs to put the tax records issue behind him pronto.  Failing to do that will cost him any hope of a presidential victory, and it may even cost him the GOP nomination.  If he's not ashamed of his success, he should act like it.

4.Romney must defend capitalism or get out of the way and let someone else do it.  Capitalism is under attack.  That much is clear.  For instance, Occupy Wall Street is little more than an attack on the capitalist underpinnings of our economic system.  Crying about being attacked by other GOP hopefuls is a far cry from defending the virtues of a system that is the envy of the world.  Romney needs to explain that our nation's deficit and debt problems are firmly rooted in government attempts to create a European style socialist state and the abandonment of basic capitalist principles.  If he can't do that, he doesn't deserve to be president.

 

Neil Snyder is a chaired professor emeritus at the University of Virginia.  His blog, SnyderTalk.com, is posted daily.  His latest book is titled If You Voted for Obama in 2008 to Prove You're Not a Racist, You Need to Vote for Someone Else in 2012 to Prove You're Not an Idiot.

 


 

 

I live in South Carolina.  For the past week, I have been inundated with robocalls and campaign material from all the GOP hopefuls.  I watched and read about the debates, and I listened to what people had to say about the candidates.  This is my take on why Mitt Romney failed to energize a sufficient number of voters in my state to win the primary:

1. His lackluster defense of venture capitalists: Romney's success at Bain Capital should have given him a huge strategic advantage in South Carolina, but he played it like an amateur.  Rather than take the offense, he played defense and it cost him dearly.  Venture capitalists play an important part in the process of growing healthy small businesses and in rehabilitating faltering businesses, large or small.  Rather than explaining clearly what venture capitalists actually do and the fact that our nation needs someone with venture capitalist training at the helm right now, Romney allowed his opponents to beat him up with his most significant strength.

2. Offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands: I never heard anyone question the legality of Romney's offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands, but he never gave a complete explanation about why he decided to park money there.  The Cayman Islands are a notorious hiding place for tax cheats and money launderers.  Romney needed to distinguish between himself and others who use Cayman Island accounts for illegal purposes.  That was a serious mistake.  Romney should have anticipated the problem and moved his money back to onshore accounts long ago.

3. Tax records: Romney's handling of the tax records issue was pathetic, and it shouldn't have been.  He defended his reluctance to release his tax records by saying that Democrats would try to use his success against him.  He was right, and knowing that he should have been prepared to defend his success.  He wasn't.  He looked as though he had something to hide or that he was ashamed of his success.  He should have released his tax records and told the electorate that his goal is to reshape America so that every citizen has an opportunity to be just as successful as he has been.  In effect, Romney turned something that could have been used as an offensive weapon into a liability.  That won't work in a GOP primary, and it won't work in a general election either.

4.Rope-a-dope Style of Campaigning: Last but not least, Romney seems to be playing rope-a-dope, à la Muhammad Ali.  He entered South Carolina in the catbird seat, and he leaned against the ropes while his challengers, particularly Newt Gingrich, pummeled him.  Rope-a-dope may have been a winning strategy for Ali, and it may eventually work for Romney, too, but it opened the door for a dramatic Gingrich win in a state that could easily have gone for Romney.  If playing defense doesn't cost Romney the GOP nomination, it will almost certainly cost him the general election.

What lessons can Romney take from his dreadful second place finish in the South Carolina primary?

1. Romney's not a shoo-in for the GOP nomination, not yet anyway, so he had better play the game to win.  That means he needs more offense and less defense.

2. Romney had better come up with a reasonable explanation for those Cayman Island accounts.  If they bothered voters in South Carolina, you can bet that they will bother voters in other states, too.

3. Romney needs to put the tax records issue behind him pronto.  Failing to do that will cost him any hope of a presidential victory, and it may even cost him the GOP nomination.  If he's not ashamed of his success, he should act like it.

4.Romney must defend capitalism or get out of the way and let someone else do it.  Capitalism is under attack.  That much is clear.  For instance, Occupy Wall Street is little more than an attack on the capitalist underpinnings of our economic system.  Crying about being attacked by other GOP hopefuls is a far cry from defending the virtues of a system that is the envy of the world.  Romney needs to explain that our nation's deficit and debt problems are firmly rooted in government attempts to create a European style socialist state and the abandonment of basic capitalist principles.  If he can't do that, he doesn't deserve to be president.

 

Neil Snyder is a chaired professor emeritus at the University of Virginia.  His blog, SnyderTalk.com, is posted daily.  His latest book is titled If You Voted for Obama in 2008 to Prove You're Not a Racist, You Need to Vote for Someone Else in 2012 to Prove You're Not an Idiot.

 


 

 

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